Recently I've been trying to date on the sly. Actually, more specifically, I've just not mentioned it on the blog. Once upon a time, my writing here was an extremely honest and open account of my romantic and sex life, but that’s no longer possible…
Anyway, dating: meeting members of the opposite sex, hoping for mental stimulation, plenty of shagging and possibly more.
It's not been going well.
Hilariously, (not for me, but I can appreciate the schadenfreude), my main (read: easiest, because I am busy with work plus I am also exceedingly lazy) method of meeting men – the internet – has in recent times proved a route fraught with anxiety and worry; leaving me single, shagless and lacking any romance.
My procuring dates through the internet have begun well: mutual appreciation of profile pictures, some flirtatious emails, perhaps even meeting up for a drink one evening. There the conversation might flow, there may be good chemistry, heck, we might both wonder what the other looks like naked. But at some point during every internet-liaison I have had in the last twelve months, the inevitable seems to happen, along the lines of:
Him: So, what do you do for a living?
Me: Oh, I write, it's nothing really. Tell me some more about your legal/banking/sales/architecture/IT work.
A little time passes, during which a) I get to find out what sort of person he is and whether he lives to work, or works to live, and b) I feel relieved to have evaded talking about myself. But a short while later:
Him: What sort of stuff do you write then?
Me: This and that; it's not very interesting. Hey, did you see Screenwipe last night?
Him: I know.
Him: I know: you're The Girl.
Him: Abby Lee. I've read the book and blog. I recognised you from your profile picture.
Me, a rabbit in the headlights: Oh. I see.
Then follows a brief interlude where said man says very nice things to reassure me, tells me how much he enjoys the blog and that he would like to see me again. Meanwhile I try not to appear like I am panicking, but am simultaneously planning the swiftest route to escape from the date.
Now, some might say I should embrace the situation: take advantage of the fact that there are cool, sexy, intelligent men out there who a) know about all the sex I've had and don't judge me on that; b) are open-minded about sex themselves; c) appear interested in getting to know me more intimately. If I don't want to enter into anything serious with them, I should just mark them up on my shagging scorecard, right? A little casual sex with a book/blog-reader: what's wrong with that?
But for me, feeling secure about sexual intimacy – in whatever context – is important. So when a bloke says, as a guy did with me some months ago on a one-night stand, 'I feel intimidated by you; how can I compete with the other men you've written about?' all I could say was, 'well I feel intimidated by you expecting me to live up to what you’ve read’. The outcome? Unsatisfying sex, and me (and most likely him too) feeling nervous and uncomfortable.
I remember saying about men in my first ever interview last year, 'I suppose I can use the book as some sort of test - "Just read that. If you don't have a problem with it, then you must be OK."' I take that statement back now. Not because I think the men who have read my book or blog are weird in some way - the opposite is true actually - but given they know so much about me, it would not be a good foundation for intimacy of any sort. How could I trust the shared experience of learning and discovering about another when a man can hold all that previous knowledge of me, and I, none of him? Coming face-to-face with a guy whom, prior to even meeting me, knows almost my entire sexual history and all my thoughts and feelings about that, leaves me intimidated not relaxed.
So I run. I don't stick around to get to know the guy. I've sent at least a dozen 'sorry, I can't meet you again' emails to men whom I am sure are very nice but who I learned were blog fans; I’ve removed a handful of profiles on various websites because they spotted I was The Girl. Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that every man who looked at one of my online profiles put two and two together and guessed I wrote this blog, but the majority have: enough to make me yearn for my previous anonymity.
Before I am accused of wallowing in my own self-pity, I am not sharing my dating woes to obtain sympathy. Boo hoo, The Girl is dateless, big deal, there are worse things in the world and my life is not all bad, thank you very much. And if it appears otherwise, I am very complimented by the fact that these guys enjoy the blog; I am honoured that they might think me interesting enough to want to get to know me some more. But at the end of the day, it's just little me out there, trying to navigate the choppy waters of my increasingly surreal life and one stress I cannot cope with is the shark-like prowling of the online dating world: the internet was once a source of potential sexual and/or romantic possibilities for me but has now become a hazardous ocean of uncertainty. The solution to all this? I don't know; at the moment I’ve got other, more important things to worry about, so my love life will just have to take a back-seat, I suppose. A friend said to me recently, 'your entire life, quite literally, is online. Perhaps now it is time to start living it offline?' I responded very defensively to their suggestion when they voiced it, but right now I am beginning to think that they might have a very valid point.